SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) — Rebuilding after a wildfire is a long, expensive process. Just ask the owners of Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa–it was decimated by the North Bay fires two years ago.
Getting things back to normal takes a bit of creativity.
Earlier this year, Paradise Ridge Winery made an unconventional pairing: it welcomed a flock of a hundred sheep to graze on grass beneath its grapevines.
Dr. Stephanie Larson with the UC Cooperative Extension is leading a pilot program to help bring the property back to life, from the soil to the vines.
The sheep help cut down the threat of new fires.
“Grazing is a real biological tool and so it’s a very natural tool to have animals grazing vegetation,” said Dr. Larsen. “So this adds that green image…it’s adding fertilizer back into the soil.”
Two years ago, Paradise Ridge Winery was a total loss. Nearly 100,000 bottles of wine worth $5 million burned to the ground. 11 of its 13 buildings went up in flames.
Today, there are signs of health all around the property, and not just in the vineyards. Local girl scout troops are planting a garden to attract and regenerate the native bee population.
“It might help wineries, because we do have a decreasing bee population kind of worldwide,” said scout Emily Aja. “So after a fire, when it bounces back, you’ll have a really nice, healthy ecosystem.”
Up the hill, things looks much different than when KPIX 5 visited one year ago. The charred hillsides were a reminder of its wounds.
“What we want is for people to see resilience and strength and sustainability,” said co-owner of Paradise Ridge Winery, Sonia Byck-Barwick.
Rebuilding has come on a high cost. Co-owners and siblings Byck-Barwick and Rene Byck say the winery was severely under-insured. The cost to completely rebuild is $15 million. They’ve collected only a third of that amount.
“This building is the only building that the insurance money that we’re putting towards and all the insurance money actually doesn’t even cover building this one building, so it has been difficult,” said Byck.
Still, the family is moving forward. Paradise Ridge is designing a new building for winemaking and it plans to construct new homes for rent on the family’s land.
And this year’s harvest looks normal.
“We were sort of the poster child for this not pleasant event,” said Byck-Barwick. “And we felt that if we didn’t rebuild, it would be a negative impact on our community.”
The hospitality building, which is for the main tasting room, is scheduled to officially open at the end of November.
Paradise Ridge says it’s already booked three Christmas parties there this year as well as two weddings in 2020.